Bar Mitzvah Tallit: A Matter of Taste and Tradition

As you tackle the dozens of tasks organizing a bar mitzvah entails, shopping for a bar mitzvah tallit should be at the top of your list. If you buy a bar mitzvah tallit online, you’ll need time to choose the right one and have it shipped to you, and if you order a tallit from Israel, you’ll need to leave a few extra days for shipping, so don’t wait until the last minute. After all, you’ve known the approximate date of the bar mitzvah for over a decade!

Sea of styles

Before you set out in search of a tallit that suits your son’s taste, define what you’re looking for, otherwise you may get lost in a sea of hundreds of tallit styles. Is he a traditionalist who wants to stick to the black-on-white wool tallit his grandfather wore, or would he prefer modern striping and colors? Is he the type who would want an artistic Yair Emanuel bar mitzvah tallit or something quieter, like a wool tallit set by Galilee Silks?

How much will it cost?

The narrow type of prayer shawl is made of considerably less material, therefore prices are significantly lower. Quality wool tallits start around $70, depending on size. The more expensive wool tallits (sometimes called “Chatanim”) are made of a denser weave and may include features such as wool corners and stain-resistance. Handcrafted tallit sets typically cost $200 to $400. Hand-woven Gabrieli tallit sets cost $175 to $325, again depending on size. And custom bar mitzvah tallits made by hand on a loom cost anywhere from $400 to $800.

Handmade and hand-woven tallits generally come as a tallit set, with a matching pouch and kippah. Sometimes less expensive modern tallits come with options to buy a matching pouch and kippah.

Size – Narrow vs. traditional

Some Reform and Conservative Jews wear a narrow prayer shawl that wraps around the neck and hangs down in front. Typically these are only 18, 24 or 28 inches wide. If you look at a tallit sizing chart, you’ll notice the widths suddenly jump from 24 or 28 inches to 44 or 48 inches. You have now entered the realm of traditional tallits, which are worn in front and drape down the back as well. When you cross that size gap, the price also jumps up about 30 percent since the tallit is made of two or three times as much material.

Tzitzits

Although buying an attractive tallit is a mitzvah, the essence of the mitzah of wearing a tallit is the tzitzits. Tzitzits must be tied by hand. If you buy a bar mitzvah tallit from a reliable dealer, you can safely assume they were tied by hand. According to halacha, hand-spun tzitzits are preferable over machine-spun tzitzits, but most tallits come with machine-spun tzitzits.

Giving your son his first tallit is a special moment, and to make it truly special some parents may want to take an active role. A fabulous way to do this is to tie the tzitzits yourself. Equipped with a tying guide (which can be easily found online), a DIY tallit is not as hard as it may sound and is likely to make a powerful imprint on your son as he steps into the world of mitzvahs.

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